OECD Releases Paper on Incorporation of Climate Impacts into EIAs

17 August 2010: In its Environmental Working Paper series, the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) has published a new paper titled “Incorporating Climate Change Impacts and Adaptation in Environmental Impact Assessments: Opportunities and Challenges.”

Authored by Shardul Agrawala, Arnoldo Matus Kramer, Guillaume Prudent-Richard and Marcus Sainsbury, the paper underscores that current methods of screening projects for climate impacts remain limited in design and application. The authors suggest examining the feasibility of incorporating consideration of climate change impacts and adaptation within existing modalities for project design, approval, and implementation, in particular in Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) procedures.

The paper finds a number of potential points in the EIA process where climate impacts could be potentially assessed, but notes the lack of adequate information on location history as a significant limiting factor. The authors also find that when significant uncertainty exists regarding the climate impacts of a project, unnecessarily high and possibly counterproductive investments in changing project design are a risk. The paper concludes by recommending that EIAs should begin careful incorporation of climate impacts, but that methodologies must remain flexible enough to integrate new knowledge on impacts as it becomes available, and that significant investment into long-term climate change information gathering is needed. [The Working Paper]